Party Time, Any Time, in Puglia
The early part of the year is taken up with carnival. Celebrations take place all over Puglia, in Southern Italy, but the Putignano Carnival is arguably the most famous, and certainly one of the oldest, apparently dating back to 1394. The longest, too: festivities begin on 26th December, and run until Shrove Tuesday!
The locals then take a bit of a breather, before launching into a summer season of festivals. To highlight just a few:
The Alberobello Folk Festival on the first weekend in August is what its name implies: a gathering of folk folk from Italy and beyond, culminating in a performance by Alberobello’s own “Gruppo Folkloristico Citta dei Trulli” – these being the conical houses for which the city is particularly famous. The free festival is set against the picturesque backdrop of the Trulli panorama.
The Locorotondo and Ceglie Messapica Street Festival on 16th August commemorates St Rocco, one of the town’s patron saints. The festival takes place in the heart of historic Locorotondo, and includes a huge firework display over the Itria Valley. A similar celebration is held in Ceglie Messapica, with lovely lights illuminating the Piazza Piebiscito.
The Ostuni Festival and Procession on 26th August marks the festival of St Oronzo. A procession of horses and traditional costumed riders – the “Cavalcata” – follows the saint’s statue through Ostuni’s narrow, winding streets. Live bands, street decorations and markets create a unique town festival.
Back in Alberobello, the eponymous Festival on 27th-28th September commemorates the patron saints Cosma and Damiano. Decorations and lighting throughout the streets, fireworks, brass bands, street performers and a funfair are just some of the highlights. The main event is the procession of the statues of the two saints, accompanied by a large brass band.
We have barely scratched the surface here. Anyone up for the Festival of St Orontius in Lecce in August? Taranto’s Hooded Penitents and Passion Processions on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday? Carosino’s Wine Festivals – not one, but two – in late July/early August and October (we particularly recommend the former, as apparently “wine is made to gush from the square’s fountain for everybody”)?
But one thing’s for sure: Puglia is a true celebration – in every sense – of all that is best in Italy’s historic South.
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